PARENTS 'traumatised' by an unpredictable illness have thanked a hospice for restoring their positivity during a desperate time.

Annabel Psaras, whose 52-year-old husband Ari Psaras has heart failure, has paid an emotional tribute to Sobell House for helping them through a dark period.

The 43-year-old, whose partner is currently in hospital awaiting a new heart, said they attended a course at the Headington hospice especially for patients and carers affected by heart failure.

She said: "When we arrived we were traumatised, struggling to cope. We were terrified of life and so broken down. We had the opportunity to talk about our situation and covered various topics.

"When you are under so much stress you are in 'fight or flight', you need to get out of that to live and be healthy.

"Unless you have support like this to catch you, you would feel completely lost and alone and isolated.

"It's added a layer of psychological support."

Mr Psaras was diagnosed six years ago with the help of experts from Oxford Vascular Study, after having symptoms of grey-tinged skin, weight loss and exhaustion.

His illness took a turn last summer when his heart stopped and he went into cardiac arrest, and his internal defibrillator - a device implanted to regulate abnormal heart rhythms - shocked him 36 times to keep him alive.

Mrs Psaras endured a frantic wait for the ambulance and said she pumped on his chest to try to resuscitate him, in view of their daughter, now aged seven.

He was put into a medically-induced coma and stabilised, and is now awaiting a heart transplant at Harefield Hospital in London.

Earlier this year the pair, who live near Wantage, took part in the hospice's Living Well with Heart Failure Project - an eight-week course designed to help people to cope with the condition.

Mrs Psaras, who is her husband's carer, said: "When the British Heart Foundation got in touch to ask us along, I grabbed it with both hands.

"I've always known what incredible work the hospice does for patients and carers, and how important it is to our community."

The course took place in the hospice's day centre, at the Churchill Hospital site.

Mrs Psaras said: "Suddenly you have people to turn to and relate to. Before you go, you think, 'how can this help me?' It's so intangible to describe how it does.

"The course helped us to have conversations about death. In this country, the last taboo seems to be talking about death. Sobell House has so much experience in helping with that.

"Weirdly once you have had that conversation it takes an enormous burden off."

She said the hospice was helping to open people's eyes to other life-limiting conditions aside from cancer.

She added that they were now more optimistic about the future, adding: "There are ups and downs and lots of disasters in between, but I feel really positive about it.

"I just want to say a huge thank you to Sobell House."